Jakarta – Zulfika Rochmah stood shyly in front of the crowd, trying to explain why school was so important to her.
“I want to be a doctor someday so I can make my friends well again. They have trouble breathing now since the mud,” said the skinny 10-year-old from Sidoarjo, East Java.
“A lot of my friends are too sick to come to school now, or have moved away. I feel so lonely sometimes,” said the pony-tailed girl wearing a faded red T-shirt and old baggy jeans, who studies at an Islamic elementary school in West Besuki.
“It used to be pleasant studying at school, but now the mud bubbles up all around, making everything smelly and dirty,” Fika, as she is known to friends, told gathered activists and journalists at the Jakarta office of a human rights group affiliated with the Coalition of Movements in Support of Justice for the Lapindo Mudflow Victims, which was founded for the sole purpose of seeking justice for the 40,000 people displaced by the disaster.
The coalition was organized by several civil society groups in Indonesia, including the National Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), the Indonesian Green Institution, the Peoples Coalition on Fisheries Justice (Kiara), Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Imparsial, Lapis Budaya, the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and several other NGOs.
Chalid Muhammad from the Indonesian Green Institution said the government ignored the right of children to education in its effort to assist the victims of the mudflow, which started on May 29, 2006, when PT Lapindo Brantas, an oil and gas company controlled by the family of Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, was drilling in the area.
“This coalition is our way of reminding the public of the corporate negligence and the state’s reticence in dealing with the disaster’s aftermath including what to do about the area children’s education,” he added.
The coalition plans to collect Rp 43,644,500 (US$4,800) to buy books, uniforms and to pay for exams and building fees to help the Sidoarjo children.
Mujtaba Hamdi from the Lapindo Mudflow Victim Rescue Post said there were 103 children — from elementary to high school age — whose educations were now threatened because their parents’ incomes had declined following the disaster.
He added that neither the government nor Lapindo had provided compensation for education.
“Most of the funds are to rebuild infrastructure, such as housing,” Mujtaba said.
“Children’s rights have been not addressed in any of the presidential regulations issued to handle the disaster,” he said.
“This is our reason for starting this movement to raise funds to assist the children.”
Kontras has set up a special donation box at its office at Jalan Borobudur No. 14, Jakarta, to help the coalition effort to assist the Sidoarjo children.
Anyone wishing to donate can visit www.korbanlumpur.info and www.jatam.org, or go to the Kon-tras office between July 8 and Aug. 7, or transfer funds to the Mampang Jakarta branch of CIMB Niaga Bank at account number 9030 1010 46008.
Around 40,000 people were displaced by the disaster, which the Supreme Court said could not be blamed on Lapindo. (map)
(c) The Jakarta Post